The Tripoli-based GNC or National Salvation government had originally been in favor of the fourth draft presented by Bernardino Leon to the two rival governments. The Tobruk government, on the other hand, was not even sure it wanted to return to the dialogue. However, no doubt after considerable pressure from European countries and the U.S., the House of Representatives duly passed several amendments to the fourth draft that would reduce the power of the GNC to virtually nothing while giving considerably more to the HoR. After doing this they agreed to attend the talks. I expect they were told that they could expect a revised draft more favorable to them if they attended the talks.
When the Tripoli delegates returned to the peace talks over last weekend they were presented not with the fourth draft but with an amended fifth draft that removed the powers Tripoli had under the terms of the fourth draft. There had been no consultation with the delegates about the changes nor approval of them. As I pointed out in a recent article, Leon seems to be doing everything he can to bypass the GNC and create a final agreement that the Tripoli group cannot sign.
He also insulted Tripoli by holding talks with the Misrata militia without approval of the senior staff of Tripoli militia forces. The Tripoli government offered to appoint senior officers of the military forces to meet with him. Leon is said to be meeting with Tobruk armed forces officials in Cairo, but there is no mention of who they are or what happened at the meeting or even if it has taken place. The leader of the LIbyan Army Khalifa Haftar has said he will never negotiate with Tripoli militia or even sign a peace deal with them. In spite of the UN constantly talking about their being only a political solution Haftar thinks that there is a military solution. He has been pursuing this since May of 2014 when he launched Operation Dignity. It is still ongoing and supported by the Tobruk government..Among other actions, Haftar has bombed Tripoli a number of times with international support, burned down the parliament in Tripoli as part of Operation Dignity, declared an offensive to retake Tripoli as peace talks started, and bombed an airport used by Tripoli government several times. One bombing delayed the talks for one day as the Tripoli delegates could not take off. Of course none of this disruption of the peace talks merited sanctioning of Haftar or the Tobruk government. However the GNC is threatened with sanctions if it does not accept a plan which consists of an altered draft about which the GNC was not consulted and whose amendments all favor increasing the power of the HoR and reducing that of the GNC.
The parties were supposed to return to Skhirat on Thursday to sign the final draft. However, the Tripoli delegation insisted it needed more time for consultation with the GNC. According to the Libya Observer foreign officials put all sorts of pressure on Tripoli delegates to sign the draft: The English ambassador, Peter Millet, threatened a delegate with being placed on a sanctions list if he did not sign. The French ambassador Antoine Sivan is said to have threatened the Second Deputy Speaker of the GNC with various negative outcomes if he did not sign: “If you didn’t sign the draft, a civil war would erupt in your country, assets of the Central Bank of Libya would be frozen, plan B would be implemented to seize oil ports and fields and airports.” This is what is being said on the GNC side. Why are there no reports on this, at least none I have seen. Is it not news when ambassadors do this sort of thing?
Another recent stunning development is that when the Tripoli delegation did not return to the Thursday meetings, Leon held them anyway. So negotiations continue with one party not even there. Among the flights of rhetorical puffery that always adorns UNSMIL news releases we have this:
After long strenuous months of negotiations to build consensus during which all participants demonstrated courage and sense of responsibility, we would like to announce to the Libyan people in this blessed month that we were able to agree on the text of the Libyan political agreement attached to this statement. We are certain that that it will put Libya on the track of the aspired solution…We also call on everyone to exercise restraint, avoid escalation and being dragged into violence. We call on them to sustain the dialogue and communication for the benefit of Libya. We have gone through this difficult process backed by the support and trust of the Libyan people, with our brothers, whom we hoped would be with us today. They played an important role in drafting this agreement. We are looking forward to their making the right decision in the coming few days to complete the consensus that was built throughout this process. So one rival government and some independents are the “we” but not the other rival government. The UN publishes this as an agreement when in fact there has been no agreement by the other party. Why would the UN publish such nonsense? If there is no agreement they should report that. They say that they hope their brothers, who they hoped would be there, would complete the consensus. But apparently they will go ahead with formation of the Government of National Accord even though the delegates from the rival government do not participate at all. This exact scenario was described in an article in the Libya Herald several days ago.
To add to the pressure and the absurdity of the situation the UN Security Council not only supports the new draft without waiting to see if there is agreement but in effect threatens sanctions against those who interfere with the peace process:
The UN Security Council on Wednesday urged Libya’s parties to sign an agreement to form a national unity government and threatened sanctions against those who stand in the way of a deal. So the GNC was presented with a draft containing amendments that take away the power they had in the fourth draft and increased the power of the other side, all of this done without consultation or agreement. Now if they find they cannot accept a government with their power removed, they face sanctions. This is the sort of negotiation favored by the big powers who brought Libya a no-fly zone for protection of the LIbyan people and other frauds that have led to the present debacle. Notice that when Khalifa Haftar bombs his own people there is no talk of sanctions, let alone a no-fly zone to stop the bombing. Perhaps the UN will restore some power to the GNC by a further amendment but it certainly does not look like this is to happen. Instead it looks as if the farce will go ahead to produce a Government of National Acoord with one rival government not part of it. This is a recipe for renewed civil war with Tripoli continuing the conflict with CIA-linked General Haftar and Operation Dignity but now not only supported by Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE but by the international community who will sanction Tripoli militia and members of the Tripoli government.
The GNC has now ordered its negotiating team not to sign the UNSMIL draft until amendments are made. Among their objections to the present draft is the reduction of the Supreme State Council to a purely advisory role. However in its statement the GNC had other complaints on changes:
The statement concluded by saying that the political dialogue committee will have no future role in forming the government or in occupying vital positions once the signing of the agreement takes place, pointing out that all the decisions made by the GNC and the Salvation government must be considered invalid, while the parliament decisions remain valid and in effect. If any amendments were made, it is likely that the Tobruk government would reject them if they reduce its power or increase that of the Tripoli government. The full text of the amended fourth draft, often called the fifth draft can be found here.